Finding your place in the world after a spinal cord injury can seem like an impossible task. For Kris Cordero, 36, this was certainly the case. He felt as if his identity had been stripped away and lapsed into a full-blown depression for years. This however was the impetus for his next chapter in life. It wasn’t easy discovering this path however for this former high school athlete.
All it took was one interaction and Kris knew instantly what his new role in life was to be – he wanted to become a mental health therapist. But it did not happen overnight. He had to put in years of schooling and his perseverance is sure to inspire others with spinal cord injuries, showing how you can change aspects of yourself after an SCI in order to survive.
Why He’s Fearless
Growing up in Oklahoma, Kris loved wrestling. Unfortunately, he injured his spinal cord at the C5-6 level during a wrestling match in a tournament final. He was 16 at the time. “I was completely numb for three years and incredibly depressed for eight years after my injury,” he says. “I had a lot of anger and resentment the first year of my injury, even though I tried to not let it show. I struggled with suicidal ideation regularly, just trying to find my purpose.”
After high school, he attended rehabilitation at Craig hospital in Colorado., It was there he was able to discover his life’s purpose. “I decided I wanted to be a therapist while I was inpatient at Craig. A nurse asked me to talk with another patient who wasn’t doing very well. Through our small conversation I was able to restore hope, and he started coming out of his room and working through rehab. I was hooked, this is what I wanted to do with my life. Having this passion helped me to stay busy and focus on it, rather than idle time.”
And that is when Kris set to work on his academic career, which was a full 180 degree difference from his previous life. “I had to switch completely from being an athlete to academics in order to become a therapist.” Kris enrolled at Oklahoma Wesleyan University, and graduated with his Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology. Once he received his degree in 2008, he moved to Colorado for five years where he started his Master’s of Science in Professional Counseling at Grand Canyon University.
After moving back to Oklahoma, he continued his studies and graduated. He is now one examination away from becoming a licensed professional counselor. One day Kris would love to receive his PhD in clinical counseling as well. As for what he is doing each day, he works at a local community health facility providing therapy for 7 to 12 people each day. “I primarily work with adults, and anyone who is asking for help and presents to the clinic . I have a group of people that I regularly provide therapy to as well.”
The topic of forgiveness has been at the forefront of Kris’s practice as well, knowing how toxic not forgiving someone can be after a SCI. He is working on a book as well. “Forgiveness can be a tricky subject, especially if it took place from the hands of another person. You have to be intentional; you have to want to become the best person of yourself, and living with unforgiveness can cause a lot of other issues,” he says.
“Manifestations, in my opinion, of living with unforgiveness can cause gastrointestinal issues. If you’re living paralyzed, you know that this can be a train wreck all by itself. You must be intentional about wanting to get better, find a therapist, find a regular person to talk to. If it gets 1% better, that’s better than no percent, and simply doing nothing means that it will not get better.”
If you’re paralyzed and struggling to forgive after your injury, Kris recommends journaling. “You have to simply start by trying and if you’re not ready to work with someone, start by journaling. I believe this is a good process to start expressing what has been held in for so long. Can’t find a therapist, find a close friend or make one that you can trust talking about things. Not trying or doing anything about it basically means it will not get better. It’s a process.”
Confronting the topic of forgiveness himself, Kris plans on meeting with the wrestler that broke his neck in a few weeks. “It’s set to take place at the arena we were wrestling in when the accident occurred,” he says, and it will be filmed by local TV.
If you’re struggling with forgiveness after your spinal cord injury and want help, contact Kris at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow Kris on Social Media
– Twitter: _kdcordero
– Instagram: _kdcordero
– Facebook: /KrisCordero